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CONTENTS Volume 2 | Holiday 2016

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Letter from the Publisher & Editor-in-Chief Editorial – How Queer is Virginia? Opinion – Changing Assumptions Foreword – Delegate Sam Rasoul: Finding Common Ground

INFORM 11 17 18 20 22 23

Black And-Also Kettle Love Alone is Not Enough What is Good Art? The World Needs More Lazy People You Are More than a Sum of Slurs Peace with Paradox: Homosexuals & Evangelicals

CONNECT 26 27 28 29 30 31

Got Milk? Debunking the Myth of “Patient Zero” Coming Out of the Closet During the Holidays 5 Tips to Enjoy the Holidays if You’ve Just Come Out “98% of Winning is Showing Up” I Wanted Womanhood to Die

ENGAGE 34 36 37 38 39 40 43 44 45 46

Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel: This History of Hanukkah Thanksgiving – It’s Not Just About Turkey Anymore! Fact vs. Fiction: Does Alcohol Keep You Warm? My Top 10 “Just the Tips” for Holiday Decorating How to Make the Perfect Snowball 12 Gay Movies for the 12 Gays of Christmas A Holiday Tour Across Virginia Virginia Voices Book Review – The Essential RuPaul How to Throw a Rockin’ NYE Party on a Budget

Unite Virginia promotes equality through storytelling. We provide the LGBTQ community and its allies a unified voice in Virginia’s evolving cultural, economic and social narrative.

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It’s that time of year when we are all getting excited about celebrating the holiday season with friends and loved ones. From Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day, there are plenty of holidays (both religious and secular) to celebrate. In fact, the spirit of the season is reason enough to celebrate! As the turkey is carved, the mistletoe hung and the eggnog prepared, we look back at 2016 and contemplate how thankful we are for the blessings that each of us has been bestowed. We attend house parties, office parties and holiday functions that celebrate love, friendship and family. We count down the last seconds of 2016 and ring in the New Year with a sense of hope and optimism for all the wondrous things yet to come. For some, the holiday season can be filled with loneliness, sadness and even fear. This may be especially true for members of the LGBTQ community. As we gather together with others at holiday functions, sometimes we are forced into situations in which we must deal with those who do not accept us for who we are. Not being able to bring our authentic selves to the holiday festivities can make some feel nervous, isolated and even depressed. This is particularly true when families do not welcome LGBTQ people home with open hearts and minds. As such, many people within the LGBTQ community have created their own “families” of friends and loved ones who demonstrate true affection and support throughout the seemingly bleak midwinter. If you’re out, proud and accepted by your family, that’s fantastic! If you are not able to be your authentic self amongst your family members during the holidays, surround yourself with people who love you for you.

UNITE VIRGINIA STAFF PUBLISHER & EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Justin Ayars, JD EDITOR & CREATIVE DIRECTOR Jesse LaVancher ART DIRECTOR Christopher Murphy / Digital Empire Graphic Design

Importantly, the spirit of the season transcends all religions. This is the season of peace, love and joy. No matter how you celebrate the holidays, be sure to keep those three words— peace, love and joy—in the back of your mind throughout the season and during all of your interactions with others. After a tumultuous election cycle, many people are feeling afraid, angry and bewildered as “the most wonderful time of the year” descends upon us. This holiday season, perhaps more so than in past years, it is imperative that we treat each other with dignity and respect; that we look for commonalities that unite us rather than differences that divide us; and, that we show compassion towards all those we encounter. I encourage each of you to take this philosophy and carry it close to you during the holidays and into the New Year. Let the spirit of the season wash over you and inspire you to spread peace, love and joy to all.

WEB DESIGNER Michael Romano LOGO DESIGNER Umbrella Management Group, LLC ADVERTISING MANAGER Kimberly Nikole Welsh / NATIONAL ADVERTISING Rivendell Media INTERNATIONAL FELLOW Kenny Schmidt COLLEGIATE FELLOWS Yasir Afzal, Ariell Branson, Kevin G. Costanzo, Maxwell Manchester, Christian Meade, Charlie Williamson CONTRIBUTORS Yasir Afzal, Justin Ayars, JD, Ariell Branson, Stephanie Brill, Kristin K. Collier, Meredith Jenkins, Lisa Kenney, Jesse LaVancher, Jason Leclerc, Maxwell Manchester, Christian Meade, The Honorable Sam Rasoul Member of the Virginia House of Delegate, from the 11th District (Roanoke), Kenneth Reed, ED.D, LPCC, Terri Schlichenmeyer, Lee Schubert, Blair Smith, Charlie Williamson Michele Zehr, M.A., M.Ed. PUBLISHING PAGEOFFICE 46

“There is nothing in the world so The Brookwood |1342 | Richmond, VA 23225 Stay Flynn UnitedRoad | L’Opossum Ad irresistibly contagious as laughter Stay United! and good humor.” Keep up-to-date on the latest news, join the conversation and share your stories wit ― Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol /uniteva

May your holiday season be filled with love, laughter and good humor! Cheers,



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How Queer is Virginia? By, Arielle Branson

Because sexual identity is not a constitutionally protected class, there are wide disparities in the treatment of LGBTQ people based largely upon geographical location. This is why the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) does an annual assessment of LGBTQ equality in 506 cities across the nation. This is crucial because this year’s assessment reported that only, “20 states have non-discrimination laws that include protections for LGBTQ people in employment, and 19 states have laws that protect LGBTQ people from discrimination in places of public accommodation.” The study, called the Municipal Equality Index (MEI), is the only nationwide ranking system of equality in law and policy. This year’s report included 11 cities in Virginia. The average score nationwide was 55 points out of 100; the average score in Virginia was 46 points. 22 cities this year were awarded a perfect score. Richmond was awarded 46 points, the average for the state. The highest scoring Virginia city was Arlington, with a score of 87, and the lowest was Chesapeake, with a score of 18. This is partially due to the fact that Virginia law does not address discrimination based upon sexual orientation or sexual identity in the private sector. This leaves protections of this kind up to individual cities. Arlington and Alexandria (the two highest ranking Virginia cities) have independent protections that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation but not gender identity.

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Since 2012, when the MEI first debuted, the number of cities earning perfect scores has quintupled and cities that have been reviewed all five years have improved by 20 points on average. HRC President Chad Griffin stated, “This year, dozens of cities across the nation showed they are willing to stand up for LGBTQ people in their communities even when some state governments are not.” Griffin continued, “This builds on a trend we have long observed: that local governments are at the forefront of our fight for equality.” This progress at the local level is exemplified by the improvements made for the transgender community. The findings show that transgender-inclusive healthcare benefits are offered to employees of 86 municipalities this year, which is up from 66 in 2015 and just 5 in 2012. With each passing year, the end goal of equality grows closer. However, when it comes to Virginia, a great deal of improvement still needs to be made. Although we fall behind the national average, there has been significant improvement. “In its fifth year, the MEI continues to drive fairness and equality in Virginia’s leading municipalities,” said James Parrish, Executive Director of Equality Virginia. “The MEI provides a useful benchmark for localities to create a Virginia that is a safe, welcoming, and equal place for gay and transgender individuals and their families to live, work, and play.” As the HRC prepares for its sixth annual MEI, Virginia has a wonderful opportunity to show that its cities, and indeed the Commonwealth as a whole, is open and welcoming to everyone.


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Changing Assumptions By, Lee Schubert During my youth, very little was known about gender identity. Christine Jorgensen was the only transsexual anyone had heard of, and she was viewed as more of a curiosity and object of amusement than a cause for condemnation. It was only during the last 15 years or so that people became very aware that there are many transsexuals, and even then any attention paid to us tended to be in a comic context. Only for about five years have we finally been taken seriously and become the subject of an almost constant media barrage. The increased interest in transsexuals has been accompanied by an important change in the way they are viewed by mental health professionals. Being transsexual is no longer considered a mental illness, and the term “gender identity disorder” has been replaced by the term “gender dysphoria,” which refers not to being transsexual, but only to the mental and emotional distress often caused by having a gender that is different from the biological sex one was assigned at birth. Also, there is now some movement away from the previous assumption that only hormone therapy and surgery could provide effective treatment for transsexuals. Now the mental health establishment is beginning to understand that sometimes gender dysphoria can be successfully treated just through psychotherapy. The legal issues for transsexuals have been different from those for gays. The fundamental question is whether the law will treat trans men and women the same as other men and women. Some states have taken a major step in that direction by enabling people to have their birth certificates changed to reflect the sex that matches the gender with which they actually identify. Until recently, who a trans person could marry was sometimes a problem, but same-sex marriage has largely taken care of that. However, issues like employment discrimination, military service, and treatment in prisons remain problematical. And, of course, there is the notorious bathroom issue, which led to the recent Supreme Court decision to hear a case involving what bathroom a trans person should use. The outcome of that may shed important light on the future legal status of transsexuals. But whatever direction court decisions and legislation may take, the real status of transsexuals in America will depend more on other people’s attitudes. The biggest question is whether people’s gender really is whatever they self-identify as. That is a very hard idea for many people to accept, since for many it seems to challenge the natural order of things. There is no more strongly held human conviction than that people’s gender is determined by the genitals they were born with. Changing that assumption will require a huge change in the basic social paradigm. Only time will tell whether that can happen. Lee Schubert is the author of Woman Incognito: Transsexual without Transition. UNITE Virginia | | 7


Finding Common Ground

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By, Sam Rasoul

Thank you to Unite Virginia, LLC for all you do to promote equality and economic development in our great Commonwealth! The recent election and this holiday season piques our interest for a number of reasons. One in particular is the blunt conversation our country is having around diversity. As the first American Muslim elected in Virginia, I see a common thread in homophobia, Islamophobia, anti-immigrant, anti-Semitism and other forms of hate. These are all part of the same systems of discrimination and oppression. Since the beginning of civilization, leaders have appealed to the worst in us by exploiting our fears for political gain. To be fair, we all have the vulnerability to be manipulated and so it is critical for us to stand together as humans united in embracing knowledge and diversity in all its forms. Only through opening minds to new experiences and information can we counter the very ignorance which leaves us susceptible to manipulation.

efforts and realizing these are our common struggles. This holiday season and into the New Year, what can we do to challenge the hatred we experience in our daily lives? The most effective strategy for combating ignorance and hate can, at times, seem counterintuitive. “Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” -Martin Luther King, Jr. Growing a more inclusive coalition does not happen through louder yelling, more protests and an endless stream of propaganda; rather, the first step in gaining the attention of perceived adversaries is finding common ground. Family, career, safety and life purpose are some of the many issues that all humans inherently care deeply about. Approaching all engagements filled with as much love and compassion as possible is the most successful way to build bridges. Instead of facing our emotionally-charged differences head-on, fostering a productive relationship helps create opportunities for dialogue in the future. If Jesus, Ghandi and MLK Jr. all espoused this philosophy, there must be something to it!

The nine black parishioners in Charleston S.C., the three Muslim college students in Chapel Hill and the 14 public employees in San Ber“The most effective This holiday season is the perfect nardino all fell victim to not only time to exercise our patience and gun violence, but to perverse mind- strategy for combating temperament. Regardless of where sets intent on causing harm and come from, what we look like, ignorance and hate we division. These and countless othwhat we believe in or who we love, er tragedies are not merely events can, at times, seem we are all sisters and brothers of in isolation, but are offshoots of America and humanity. I wish evcounterintuitive.” acidic environments. Generationeryone a safe and happy holiday al poverty, polarizing politics and season and a joyous New Year! poor education systems create an aura which feeds our primal survival instincts, preventing many of us from considering the impact of our actions on society as a whole. Sam Rasoul Through the good work of Unite Virginia, LLC, we find Member of the Virginia House of Delegates people from all walks of life supporting each other’s from the 11th District (Roanoke) 8 | UNITE Virginia |


news. information. conversation.

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INFORM Fighting the easy binary of “either-or,” we expand our solution set by dwelling in a better paradigm of “And-Also.”

Black And-Also Kettle By, Jason Leclerc

During America’s westward march, and in the throes of the Civil War, a rogue detachment from the U.S. Army attacked and massacred a village of mostly peaceful Cheyenne. While this scene may have played out several times and in many places along the North American frontier during the nineteenth century, justified by “Manifest Destiny,” this particular attack along the Sand Creek in what is today Colorado stands out because of the heinously broken promises it represents. As the history goes, Chief Black Kettle had raised an American flag along with a flag of truce over his tipi as given and personally instructed by none other than “the great white father,” Abraham Lincoln. The Sand Creek Massacre represents the moral failure of words—the hypocrisy inherent in sticks, stones, and bullets. The story of Black Kettle and of his people, who—shattered truces followed by broken treaties—wanted nothing more than to live and hunt upon the land bestowed by nature and their ancestors, carves a deep canyon in the myths about America’s greatness. When considering the democratic republic that took root upon that same land and eventually spread from shore to shore; when considering that the United States would never have achieved its stature in the world without the appropriation—confiscation—of North America’s broad and deep resources; when considering that betrayal and conquest could also eventually lead to equality and liberty, we face the Black Kettles—we are the pots calling kettles black. We have the perfect metaphor for how we can see ourselves. We, Americans, are conquerors and oppressors, AND ALSO liberators and freedom-fighters. Fighting the easy binary of “either-or,” we expand our solution set by dwelling in a better paradigm of “And-Also.” With this, “And-Also,” oscillation between the two sides of Americans’ shared history as a method for analyzing culture, we have a tool for digging into the granular crises that affect us daily. This analytical tool shatters the constructed binaries that afflict us, as Americans And-Also as subsets within the greater American culture. Implicit in the Hyphenated-Americanism that emerged as the melting pot became a salad bowl, we recognize a challenging internalization of the central question of my book, Black Kettle. With this backdrop, we can re-imagine the story of Sodom and Gomorrah as though an innocent citizen who was just living life as debauchery raged all around; as fire and brimstone rained.

This methodology re-tools questions such as: • “How does one navigate growing up as a boy And-Al so a girl?” • “Is there a space of sympathy for the Trayvon Martins And-Also the George Zimmermans?” • “Can a story be true And-Also false?” • “Can one interact with the same person as a brother And-Also as a lover?” • “Am I free to be both proud And-Also remorseful about being an American?” And ultimately, the metaphor itself, pots and kettles: “May I be Black Kettle And-Also Abraham Lincoln?” Do we mourn or exalt the Black Kettles without whose martyrdom the full story of America would have languished? In the spirit of Thanksgiving, we do both: We give thanks And-Also apologize; we celebrate And-Also mourn; we hold firm And-Also evolve; we are imperfect And-Also perfecting. We are, And-Also, shall be. Jason Leclerc is an internationally renowned poet, prolific blogger, film-maker and political columnist. Black Kettle is available on Amazon and in bookstores everywhere.

We are sinners And-Also forgiven.

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Love Alone is Not Enough By, Stephanie Brill and Lisa Kenney


s a parent, learning that your teen is, or may be, transgender, non-binary, gender-fluid or otherwise gender-expansive can be difficult to say the least! If your teen starts talking about their gender, or asking you to use a new name or pronoun for them, you may find yourself hoping that this is a phase and that life will soon be back to “normal.” Many parents feel that if they just ignore the topic of gender it will blow over as so many teenage issues do. Sometimes this is the case, but what if it isn’t? If it persists, you may feel a range of emotions (confused, afraid, angry…) as you try to understand what to do and how to help your child. These feelings are completely normal and to be expected. Most parents feel uncertain about how to be a good parent in a situation they have never even imagined they would be in. The number of transgender teens who will try to take their own life is staggeringly high (40% in some studies). You may think that your teen will be able to avoid these risks if you simply don’t allow them to express their gender openly. Research shows us this is not true. In fact, when a teen is unable to express their gender authentically, there is a significant increase in the risks of everything scary—depression, suicide, self-harm, and substance abuse. Research has also shown that parental rejection or lack of parental support increases these risks significantly. Your support and affirmation of your teen’s gender is the single most important thing you can do to reduce their risk of self-harm.

Maintaining a loving connection with your teen is essential as they explore their gender—whether or not you fully agree with them. You may be hoping that your love will be what your teen needs to help them get through their struggles. Your love is crucial, but love alone is not enough. Transgender teens who report that they have very supportive parents are 93% less likely to attempt suicide. How you demonstrate love and support for your transgender, non-binary or other gender-expansive teen can make all the difference. You are not alone. There are thousands of other parents grappling with these same issues every day. In fact, many parents of transgender and non-binary children and teens say that the process of learning about their child’s gender opened them up to new levels of intimacy with their child, greater self-understanding, and changed their whole way of viewing the world. There are people and resources available to help. You can do this! Stephanie Brill is the author of The Transgender Teen. Her work extensive work related to gender diversity has been featured on 20/20 and All Things Considered as well as in The Huffington Post, the San Francisco Chronicle and The New York Times. Lisa Kennis co-authored The Transgender Teen and is the Executive Director of Gender Spectrum, an organization at the forefront of work related to children, youth and gender.

Visit to read more about The Transgender Teen and the authors.

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JIM SISLEY AND LISA STROUT JOIN FORCES TO SUPPORT LEESBURG’S LOCAL ARTISTIC COMMUNITY, ENERGIZE THE REGION’S ECONOMY AND IGNITE THE IMAGINATION. By, Justin Ayars, JD and Yasir Afzal Leesburg is a historic town nestled in Loudoun County. In the past two decades, the town’s population has grown from 17,000 to over 51,000. The affluence of Loudoun County, together with the region’s community of talented local artists, led long-time Leesburg resident, Jim Sisley, to see a unique opportunity. Jim wanted to tap into the region’s competitive real estate market and, concurrently, create a space where local artists could come together and showcase their work under one roof. The resulting enterprise that emerged was Tryst Gallery. “Tryst Gallery is built on the back of needing to be more competitive in the real estate business,” Jim explained. “We have a tech incubator for companies that want to be federal contractors. We also rent out office space. I built this space to emulate an art gallery because I’m a visual artist and I have a lot of paintings that I wanted to hang and try to sell.” Roughly 35% of Jim’s business centers around the art gallery. Since Jim’s business is housed within an art gallery, he hired Lisa Strout, a 3D artist, as the gallery’s manager. Jim has known Lisa for four years and has always been impressed with her ceramic work. After managing the gallery for 18 months, Lisa encouraged Jim to reach out to local artists and have them display their works alongside his own. Jim instantly took to the idea because he had long felt that Leesburg lacked sufficient gallery and studio space for the region’s burgeoning artistic community. This past June, Jim and Lisa hosted an artist party, which officially announced Tryst Gallery to the community. About 50-60 visual artists attended, all of whom were thoroughly impressed with the space. After the party, Jim and Lisa put out an art call to over 350 artists in Virginia, D.C. and Maryland. Jim and Lisa are 18 | UNITE Virginia |

“medium agnostic,” meaning they do not care what type of art is submitted, so long as it is quality work and can be hung on the wall. Of the over 100 submissions they received, Jim and Lisa selected about 70 pieces for their first 60-day art show (the duo plans to host six 60-day shows each year). On Friday, August 5th, during one of Leesburg’s famous “First Fridays,” Tryst Gallery hosted its inaugural show. Over 140 people attended and the gallery sold six paintings! Some local artists burst into tears when they sold their first work. The third 60-day show, which will be called 12th Night, will debut on December 2nd. Beyond the tears of joy and sense of community that Tryst Gallery provides for local artists, there is a strong commercial element. “The job of an art gallery is to introduce artists’ works to the buying public,” Jim explained. “The great unknown is how do you directly communicate with art buyers and get them to spend their hard-earned money on the art we display.” Unlike other galleries, Jim feels that Tryst Gallery has a bit of an advantage on this front. Its unique space is “a convergence of business, high net worth people, educational seminars and public events that, we hope, will encourage the buying community to step up in a more active way.” Describing Lisa as “a fire-starter in her ideas,” Jim credits her with taking the mission of Tryst Gallery beyond Leesburg. Lisa is working with Visit Loudoun “to incorporate all the surrounding towns to contribute to a Virginia Artisan Trails Network.” The network will function as an agency that will promote all its members. “Its purpose,” Jim explained, will be to get “artists from across the county who work in a variety of mediums—3D, 2D, writers, culinary arts, viticulture, craft

brew—together as a group and produce a map” for the Virginia Tourism Commission. Lisa will be the “Trailboss” for this project. After blushing somewhat, Lisa commented, “Art, in general, is pretty lonely work; it’s a singular effort. Very few partnerships exist.” Expounding on this fact, Jim commented, “There is a green-eyed dynamic” when it comes to artists looking around and feeling that the market can’t support them. “We want to undo that.” Lisa echoed Jim’s sentiments, “The goal is to get the community to work together and realize the benefits of collaboration. A rising tide lifts all ships.” Given its location within Leesburg’s Arts and Cultural District, Tryst Gallery has the potential to become a unique community hub where art, commerce and education intersect in a way that will benefit artists, art lovers and the local economy. Importantly, Jim noted, Tryst Gallery is not based upon the current gallery model that most cities use. “People are used to seeing a huge open room that 300 people can be in. Everyone in the room is either facing the wall where the art is, the bar where the wine is or their friend who they came with. Tryst Gallery does not provide that sort of experience.” Instead, the gallery is uniquely intimate. Rather than being 20 feet from a piece of art, “you’re—at most—two feet away from the art at any given moment.” That creates an entirely different experience for the viewer and, frankly, for the artist. Moreover, the gallery is highly approachable, even for people who know nothing about art. Jim explained, “We speak English here, not fancy art talk. In the vast gulf between trying to display local art and what ‘experts’ say good art is, there is a fabulous amount of locally created art that the public deserves to see.” So, what exactly is “good” art? With a big smile across his face, Jim replied, “Good art is what you like and, if you like it enough, it should go home with you.” See the full story and additional photos at Tryst Gallery is located at: 312 East Market Street Suite F Leesburg, VA 20176

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icture it—you walk into work Monday morning and your co-worker greets you, “How was your weekend?” A typical response might be, “It was crazy busy, but good.” Or maybe you say, “Really good, but not quite long enough. I spent the whole weekend doing work around the house, so I still feel like I could use a few more days to relax.” Then your co-worker sighs and gives you that affirming nod and says, “Oh, I know what you mean. I spent the whole weekend running my kids around to their soccer games and I feel like I could use about three more days to just sleep.” It’s like you and your co-worker just gave each other the “secret handshake of peer approval,” confirming that neither of you is a lazy slacker. Your shared exhaustion proves it. Let’s use our imaginations for a moment. What do you think would happen if you responded with, “My weekend was amazing! I got plenty of sleep, spent some time being creative, and I feel ready to go this week.” [Insert the wah-wah “fail” sound.] Can I be blatantly honest here? In all of my years working with people in a vast array of career fields, I’ve never heard anyone respond that way. When I imagine that interaction I see a totally blank stare of discomfort on the other person’s face, because who is really expecting to hear such an empowered and positive response? I figure you could expect a reaction similar to if you had mindlessly shared something inappropriate like, “My weekend could have been better. I caught my partner in bed with someone else so I moved into the Motel 6 with my three cats and ate a gallon of ice cream for dinner every night while crying myself to sleep.” Seriously, how does one respond to that? It’s awkward, right? It would likely shut down the entire conversation. My question then, is why do we feel awkward about honestly sharing that we have taken good care of ourselves? Is it not a sacred act—to really care for yourself? Why do most of us feel a little twinge of fear if we admit that, in fact, we were not super busy, but instead slowed down and paid attention to all of the little things we normally miss when we are super busy? The first place this goes for most of us is that we’re afraid of being perceived as lazy by other people. We live in a culture where it is acceptable to shame other people for their lack of

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productivity or busyness. How bad is this problem and how does it show its ugly face? Forbes reported that in 2013, Americans collectively failed to take 577,212,000 available days of vacation and that the United States is the only nation out of the twenty-one most advanced economies in the world that does not legally require its employers to provide paid leave or holidays. If you struggle with taking time off, it’s not because you’re a loser. It’s because busyness is one of our most ingrained cultural addictions. Have you ever wondered what it might feel like to live in a culture where everyone talks about how they plan to spend their 40 days of leave each year, like in Austria? Sounds like a radical notion, doesn’t it?

Now throw into the equation that the way we feel about ourselves is pretty much dependent upon one thing—our self-perception. Self-perception = how we perceive ourselves + how we think others perceive us. Unfortunately, most of us put way too much stock in how we think others perceive us, because unless we directly ask someone what they think (which, is still no guarantee they’ll tell the truth), we’re just making up stories in our minds when we tell ourselves, “everyone will think I’m a slacker if I call in sick today.” Maybe they will, maybe they won’t. Clearly none of us has any control over what others are going to think of us, so why are we putting so much energy into worrying about it in the first place? How about honoring your own needs? I started looking into my own relationship to self-care several years ago when I was working as an advocate for survivors of sexual violence, which was very intense work that I loved. It was about that time I discovered Brené Brown, who has studied vulnerability, courage, worthiness and shame for the past thirteen years as a research professor at the University of Houston. I love her work because she is not afraid to talk about those shadowy issues that we all deal with but are usually too ashamed to talk about—like our fear of being perceived as lazy by other people. In her book, The Gifts of Imperfection, she shared her “10 Guideposts to Whole-Hearted Living,” and I think Guidepost #7— Cultivate play and rest, let go of exhaustion as a status symbol and productivity as self-worth—is yet another evidence-based cry for help from our overstimulated brains. (Go to www. to see the “10 Guideposts to Whole-Hearted Living.”)



“Together, we can all become those feared ‘lazy people’ in the world.” By, Michele Zehr, M.A., M.Ed.

It’s not a coincidence that the first thing we ask someone upon meeting them is, “What do you do?” We’re obsessed with doing-doing-doing and have lost our balance between doing and simply being (or resting without the need to be productive). My challenge to anyone reading this is to dare to flirt with the idea that perhaps your quality of life (and level of productivity) will actually improve once you begin to really take time just for you. If you are fearful of what others might think, then run an experiment. Try it a few times, be honest about how you have taken care of yourself, and see if you are shunned by “everyone.” I think you’ll find that you will become a role model and an inspiration to others. Someone has to have the courage to go first. Why not you? Together, we can all become those feared “lazy people” in the world.

Michele Zehr, M.A., M.Ed., is the founder of We2 LLC: Women’s Experiential Empowerment. She custom-designs and facilitates empowerment workshops for a wide-range of professionals, offers one-on-one Soul Weaving coaching, teaches R.A.D. Self-Defense for Women, and gives Transformational Talks by invitation. To learn more about Michele’s other services, please visit her website at: or contact her via email at: or by phone at 434-218-2462.

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You Are More than a Sum of Slurs


olidays are meant to be a time when people come together to celebrate culture, family and friends. It can also be a sensitive time when religion is in the driver’s seat. Religions are beautiful expressions of faith, life and love. However, some sects are very strict and do not tolerate deviations from rigid codes of conduct or austere doctrinal beliefs. If you find yourself having to deal with homophobic relatives this holiday season, try to understand the roots of their homophobia and figure out how to make the best of what can be a challenging situation. A family is supposed to be comforting and supportive. When homophobia creeps into your life in the form of ignorant family members, you can be left feeling frustrated and alone. Always remain calm and patient. No matter how cruel relatives may act towards you, remember that homophobia is nothing more than a fear and that fear is rooted in lack of knowledge. By expressing their homophobic views, your relatives may simply be demonstrating that they don’t know much (if anything) about the

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By, Yasir Afzal LGBTQ community. Perhaps, they are merely echoing stereotypes and opinions that have been passed down to them for generations. When engaging homophobic relatives, you may be able to change their views by sharing information and telling them your personal story. Awareness leads to knowledge. Knowledge can change hearts and minds. Educate yourself as to why your relatives may be homophobic. Sometimes people lash out at others to hide their own insecurities; others simply may have never been exposed to a gay person before. Knowing where your relatives are coming from is the single most important way you can help promote a loving environment this holiday season, rather than one rife with misunderstandings and blind hatred. You are not the sum of the slurs that your homophobic relatives throw at you. It is not your fault that they are uncomfortable and cannot understand you. Always stand up for yourself. At the end of the day, you may not be able to rely on another family member to come to your aid. Make a

statement by declining invitations to family functions where your partner is not also invited. Instead, create your own new traditions with your family members that do accept you as well as your friends who are your chosen family. Spend time with people that want to see you grow and respect you as a human being. Holidays are a time to spread love and to be loved. Outside of family gatherings, consider joining groups such as GLAAD (Gay and Lesbians Alliance Against Defamation), The Trevor Project and PFLAG (Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians and Gays) to build a sense of community and recognize that you are not alone. If you find yourself in a situation this holiday season where you are unable to help your relatives shed their fears and prejudices, show them what the season is truly about and demonstrate nothing but compassion towards them. Being honest and true to yourself is the best defense when dealing with homophobic family members. May this holiday season bring joy, light and love into your heart and home.


Peace with Paradox By, Kenneth Reed, ED.D, LPCC

What is in a word? Well, it depends on what the word is, of course. Words, like picnic tables (I’m at a park right now), may not entice emotions on any large scale, but there are some words, depending on who you are, that will bring about great passion one way or another. Let’s try a couple on for size. Here’s one: “homosexual.” Here’s another: “evangelical.” How do these words affect a person? For some, they don’t really stir any emotion. They are simply words that relate to a person’s sexual orientation and to a person’s belief system. End of story. For others, these words can create a flurry of emotions. For the homosexual, the word “evangelical” can conjure up images of a narrow minded, judgmental bigot. For the evangelical, the word “homosexual” can conjure up images of a rebellious sinner who is morally lost and going to hell. For the most part, the battle lines have been drawn. The evangelicals will sit in their camp with likeminded people and rage on about the sins of homosexuals. Conversely, the homosexuals will sit with their liberal colleagues ranting about the destructive biases of evangelicals. We live in a time where evangelicals have their religious freedoms and homosexuals can live in government-sanctioned marital bliss. Congratulations to all. Both camps seem to have adopted an unhealthy either/or paradigm. Evangelicals attempted to lead a moral crusade in American politics according to their values, yet the gay rights movement continued to advance. Retreating from the battlefield in defeat, some evangelicals are leaving the faith saying, “I’m glad I am not one of those anymore.” Conversely, some homosexuals who “gave up” their homosexuality after having been “born again” are also saying, “I’m glad I’m not one of those anymore.” This makes for an interesting dilemma. But what about homosexuals who also maintain an evangelical belief system? What a tortured existence that must be. How can such people be at peace when they stand with one foot in each camp? While I don’t pretend to solve this conundrum in this article, I recognize that there is a silent minority who can’t simply give up their faith or revert to being someone that they are not. Somewhere in this quandary there must be peace with paradox. Jesus is great at providing peace where no definite answer can be found. Evangelicals often press for a definitive renouncing of the “other,” as do homosexuals; however, I suggest that somewhere in the middle of this paradox, true peace can be found by understanding and accepting that people can be both evangelicals and homosexuals.

“This holiday season, let us remember that we do not live in an either/or world. Paradoxes are, in many ways, what defines the human condition.” This holiday season, let us remember that we do not live in an either/or world. Working towards understanding the complicated, messy truth behind all seemingly impossible paradoxes is the only way we can achieve peace. Paradoxes are, in many ways, what defines the human condition. They certainly make life interesting! Choosing sides is not the answer; rather, learning how to deal with the complex and ostensibly oxymoronic situations that we find ourselves in with both compassion and reason is the only path to true enlightenment. As strange as it may seem, there is peace within every paradox. Dr. Kenneth Reed is the author of There was a Time. He is an advocate for helping others find meaning in life through the purpose of Christ. Along with being in full time ministry for over 25 years as senior pastor of Gr8terway ministries, Dr. Reed is also a licensed therapist in private practice and full time psychology professor. Coming to grips with the authentic self is a frequent discussion Dr. Reed has with clients as a means of working through spiritual crisis. Dr. Reed is married to Elizabeth. Together they enjoy their three children, seven grandchildren, their work for the Kingdom of God and travel as much as their busy schedule allows.

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The Milk Initiative By, Blair Smith

I’m often asked, “do you guys just sit around and drink milk?” People ask me this because I’m the founder of the “Milk Club” at my high school. Contrary to popular belief, we’re not an extension of the U.S. Dairy Council. Milk Club is an LGBTQ+ inclusive organization named for the 1970s political icon Harvey Milk— a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and the nation’s first openly gay elected official. Looking back on sophomore year, I vaguely knew about a Gay-Straight Alliance at school. The group was not particularly active, and people didn’t seem to show much interest in it. The next year, the group dissolved, unable to operate without a student leader. I got motivated to revive the club at the end of junior year when I attended the county’s Pride Prom—an LGBTQ+ oriented dance that had started as a student’s senior “capstone” project to raise funds for charity two years earlier. I walked into the school gym where the dance was held. Fluorescent lights blazed vacantly, the room was sparsely decorated, and the DJ’s speakers buzzed in an annoying way. No one seemed to mind this, though, as people entered in clothes, makeup, and jewelry that let them be seen how they wanted to be. In its own way, the dance was beautiful, a place and atmosphere where everyone felt comfortable expressing themselves. My school needed something like this. While thinking about what I would do to try to organize the group, I remembered Harvey Milk from researching the LGBT Social Movement for a history project. I decided “Milk Club” would be a memorable, quirky title—and subtler than an explicitly labeled “Gay-Straight Alliance.” Having a rainbow-shaded milk bottle as the club’s Twitter icon is an added bonus—it’s @FHSMilk, if you would like to take a gander. I advertised the club on social media and during the school’s morning announcements (with the principal’s permission), and set the first meeting for Thursday, September 22nd at 8:15am. I walked into school that morning in a rainbow tie-dye T-shirt. And soon, so did 46 other kids. We crammed into a room that did not have enough desks to seat everyone. Even so, a collective smile settled around us as we realized that we’d finally created a place that was entirely free of judgment. Since then, our group has collaborated with similar clubs in other high schools in the county. These advocacy groups have taken on planning Pride Prom together, to build on the work of our predecessors. We’ve met and decided on a theme, “Celebrate Our Past,” and we are donating the money we raise to Casa Ruby, a multicultural LGBTQ+ youth shelter in Washington, D.C.

“I walked into school that morning in a rainbow tie-dye T-shirt. And soon, so did 46 other kids.” 26 | UNITE Virginia |

With the help of the supportive LGBTQ+ advocates in Virginia, I hope that we won’t have to worry about vacant fluorescent lights or annoying speaker buzzing this time. Milk Club is a portal to a world where we are celebrated for our differences. We become more comfortable with ourselves each meeting. We organize lessons on topics like media representation of the queer community, cultural perspectives of sexuality, ways we can improve our school climate, and blanket bonding sessions. Milk Club is an energetic group of people who want to make a difference. So, no, we don’t just sit around and drink milk. Blair Smith is a student at Freedom High School in Loudoun County and the Founder of the Milk Club.


The Man Who Gave Us AIDS? By, Ariell Branson


aëtan Dugas is most famously known as “The Man Who Gave Us AIDS,” a title given to him by an article published in The New York Post. However, he has finally been cleared of this unfair and dishonest title by a study published in the science journal Nature. Recently, Nature announced, “We recovered the HIV-1 genome from the individual known as ‘Patient 0’ and found neither biological nor historical evidence that he was the primary case in the U.S. or for subtype B as a whole.” Dugas, who was a flight attendant from Canada, was believed to be the sole person who brought HIV/AIDS to the United States after contracting it on a trip to Africa and Haiti. Back in the day, Haiti seemed to be a likely origin for the disease’s introduction to America because the U.S. imported blood from there and the country was a sex-tourism destination for gay men. However, the strain of HIV that has been found to be responsible for most cases in the U.S. spread here around 1971, three years before Dugas began visiting gay bars in 1974. Though science has proven that Dugas did not bring HIV/AIDS to the U.S., “Patient 0” has become unfairly synonymous with his name in the history books. The story of how Dugas became known as “Patient 0” is an interesting one. In the original studies of the virus, participants were labeled “Patient LA,” “Patient LA2,” etc. based upon the city in California where they resided. However, since Dugas was from Canada he was labeled “Patient O” for “outside-of-California.” This was later changed to “Patient 0” by Randy Shilts, a journalist who would later die from AIDS himself, in his novel And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS epidemic. Shilts overheard people at the Center for Disease Control (CDC) refer to Dugas as “Patient 0” instead of “Patient O.” He believed that this moniker was catchier and would work better in his novel.

The media quickly dubbed Dugas “Patient 0,” the man who brought HIV/AIDS to America and, in so doing, created a phrase that has become engrained in our vernacular. Shilts’ novel also discusses how Dugas knowingly infecting others with the disease and ignored doctors who warned him to stop having unprotected sex. Though Dugas passed away three years before Shilts’ novel was published, his legacy became one dirtied by misconceptions and falsehoods. Dugas was not the villain the media portrayed him to be; rather, he was a charismatic and kind man who contributed a great deal to HIV/AIDS research. He even volunteered helping other AIDS patients until his death. By keeping a detailed list of his sexual partners, Dugas was able to give 72 names to the CDC in order to help curb the spread of the infection to other homosexual men. By clearing his name, it is possible to fight some of the stigma that is linked to HIV and AIDS as a whole. To this day many fear getting tested and disclosing their status to partners out of fear of being ostracized and condemned in the same way that Dugas was. The United Nations program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) has reported, “Research has shown that stigma and discrimination undermine HIV prevention efforts by making people afraid to seek HIV information, services and modalities to reduce their risk of infection and to adopt safer behaviors lest these actions raise suspicion about their HIV status.” It’s time to replace the term “Patient 0” with “Index Patient” and be cognizant of the fact that it is often impossible to link the spread of a disease to any one individual. The exoneration of so called “Patient 0” is a bright point in the challenging history of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

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Coming Out for the Holidays By, Ariell Branson

While not required, coming out can be an important stepping stone in the life of a member of the queer community. Many adults want to come out to their families in person but often find themselves in situations where they only see their families on special occasions. This can make coming out around the holidays a necessary evil. However, because this time of year is typically stressful to begin with, if you do decide to come out during the holidays, it is important to do so safely—particularly if you think the people you’re telling may have an adverse reaction. First, the conversation should be had in private with those closest to you. Usually that means parents and siblings. Keeping the initial conversation small takes the pressure off of you and also means having to deal with fewer questions all at once. Doing it at the dinner table could put a nasty halt in the conversation and put you on the spot. Doing it before or after the big meal is going to be a lot more productive and will leave more time for everyone to process their emotions before being surrounded by a lot of people. It is also crucial to try to make the conversation as calm as possible, especially when you suspect that the people you’re telling may not respond well to your disclosure. This is very important for your overall safety and wellbeing. If you suspect that someone you tell may become volatile, it can be a good idea to tell them in a semi-public location where they will be forced to compose themselves. Seth Meyers, who works with the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health, says, “Have a stock sentence prepared, and keep repeating it until they get it: ‘I’m sorry you feel that way. Maybe we should talk about this more in the future.” This diffuses the situation and makes it so you are not responding with pure, unchecked emotion. If you are the relative that someone comes out to this holiday season, try to be understanding. Show them that you love and accept them without laying it on too thick. When you are first told, thank them for coming out to you and tell them that you feel the same way about them that you always have. It can be really difficult for someone to take this step and by responding positively you will make it easier for them to come out to others in the future. It isn’t necessary for you to treat them any different or to suddenly talk incessantly about issues pertaining to the LGBTQ community. Instead, treat them the same way you always have. They’ll thank you for it.

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CONNECT 5 Tips to Enjoy the Holidays After You’ve Come Out By, Meredith Jenkins

1. Know Your Worth You came out of the closet for a reason—to be your true self! Now that it’s the holiday season, there’s no need to jump back into the closet and pretend that you’re someone else. Whether others choose to accept you for who you are is up to them. It’s not about you. 2. Don’t Let People Get Under Your Skin If someone says something derogatory about you being “different” this holiday season, politely let them know you’d love to chat with them about their issue with you at a more appropriate time and place. Don’t let a catty insult or drunken barb ruin the festivities. 3. Know Your Boundaries You might encounter people who are very curious about you and have lots of questions now that you’re out of the closet. Before you engage with these people, determine if sharing personal information will enhance or hinder your relationship with them. Before you open your mouth, think about what you’re going to say and how you’re going to say it. Whatever you do, be sure to be respectful of yourself, the person asking the question, other guests and the host. 4. Don’t be Gluttonous or a Lush To calm your nerves at your first holiday gathering after coming out, you may be tempted to down a gallon of eggnog or hover over the buffet table rather than engage other guests. You can’t let your fears dictate your actions. 5. Embrace the Spirit of the Season No matter what you believe in or how you celebrate the holidays, this time of year is all about peace, love and joy. Instill these three words in your mind, your intentions and your reason for celebrating. Remember, it’s easier to celebrate the spirit of the season when you’re being your authentic self.

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of Winning is Showing Up By, Yasir Afzal & Maxwell Manchester

Tennis Star Fights Sexism, Homophobia & Discrimination On and Off the Court


his fall, the Virginia Commonwealth University’s College of Humanities and Sciences hosted tennis legend Billie Jean King in Richmond where she gave a moving talk about her journey as a woman, as a professional athlete and as a member of the LGBTQ community. King was born in Long Beach, California to conservative and homophobic parents. King grew up during an era when women couldn’t even get a credit card without a man signing off on it first. Back in her heyday in the 1980’s, pay disparity between male and female professional athletes was an astonishing 12:1. An advocate for equality, who happens to be a tennis superstar with 39 Grand Slam titles and 20 Wimbledon titles under her belt, she has made it her mission to promote inclusion and equality for all women. In 1972, Title IX—which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally funded education program or activity—became law. The passage of Title IX set the stage for women who wanted to become professional athletes to achieve increased opportunities in a heavily male-dominated arena. In 1973, a famous misogynist professional tennis player named Bobby Riggs begged King for a “Battle of the Sexes” match so he could solidify the notion that men still dominated the world of professional tennis in a post-Title IX world. King accepted the match, not for the money or publicity, but because she wanted to beat him for social

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“Secrets never work. You should never have two jobs—one to ‘fit in’ and one to be yourself. It’s exhausting.” change. This was an opportunity to show that women could play tennis just as well, if not better, than men. She completely obliterated him! After her victory, she co-founded World Team Tennis, a mixed-gender professional tennis league with a team format. In 1981, tragedy struck King’s life when she was outed after having an affair with a woman. She experienced an intense fallout with her parents, husband (Larry King), teammates and the world. Overnight she lost all of her endorsements. It seemed like the world had given up on her—but she didn’t see it that way. In fact, King noted that being outed allowed her to find her true self. After the scandal rocked her world, she picked herself back up and returned to her passion: tennis. As she recovered from being outed, it was her inner strength and love for her daughter that inspired her famous quote, “98% of winning is showing up.”

In 2009, President Obama presented King with the Presidential Medal of Freedom—the nation’s highest civilian award—for her work and success in both her athletic and political life. Looking to the future, King stressed how important it is that we deal with homophobia in sports. King believes that staying true to your authentic self is imperative in a world that tries to force you to fit into a mold that is considered normal. “Secrets never work. You should never have two jobs—one to ‘fit in’ and one to be yourself. It’s exhausting.” At the end of her talk, she revealed her three keys to success: 1) relationships are everything; 2) keep learning; and, 3) be a problem solver. She challenged the audience to continue the charge towards achieving true equality for all Americans.


I Wanted Womanhood to Die


By, Kristin K. Collier

years ago, I thought I was open-minded, and perhaps I was. I had been raised by my mother and the school of hard knocks. After squeaking my way into college, I’d graduated with honors and a degree in English, formally trained to critique our culture and embrace diversity. I became a mother and lived on the fringe of a post-modern hippie lifestyle, baking whole grain muffins and dehydrating kale chips for my family. Then my husband told me that he wanted to wear women’s clothes. The news seemed somehow bigger than my open mind. What would become of me as a wife? Our children? What would the neighbors think? Who was this man I loved? I crumbled at his words. I wished I could shave my head and deny my own gender so that my husband had no right or capacity to claim it for his own. I wanted womanhood to die. It did not. And no matter how hard I tried to convince my husband that it was not possible for him to be a woman, the matter could not be argued. It was her personal truth. 15 years later, I understand why. She is calmer and more socially engaged as a woman. She laughs more and is able to focus on her work. She is emotionally available as a parent. She is living her truth, rather than the lie she had been telling the world for over 30 years, and she is finally proud to be herself. In the end, I could not ask her to do otherwise. The story of my former husband, now a woman named Seda, affected me deeply, tied as it was to our marriage and family. Now, I am beginning to share my story. Most stories about trans people are told by the people who transition genders themselves, and these perspectives are of great value.

“Accepting and embracing diversity . . . calls for more than an open mind; it calls for an open heart.” Mine is one of the few stories told by partners and stands almost alone as a full-length memoir written from the perspective of a wife with family. Our solution to this challenge developed organically, and it is also unique. Seda lives in her own wing of our house, and I live in the other wing with my romantic partner and our two teenage boys. We share meals and household chores. We watch movies, play soccer, and hunt for mushrooms in the woods as a family of five. Our family is completely out of the box. 15 years ago, I thought I was open-minded, and maybe I was. But now that I have been forced to walk my talk, I have found that being open-minded is only the first step on a long road toward accepting and embracing diversity. The adjustment calls for more than an open mind; it calls for an open heart. Kristin K. Collier is an educator and writer from Eugene, OR. She has been teaching Compassionate Communication since 2004. Collier and her spouse were featured in NPR’s program, Snap Judgment. Collier’s memoir, Housewife: Home-remaking in a Transgender Marriage, will soon be available in print on Amazon and at all major book stores.

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engage culture. style. stuff.

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: s t u n o D & l i O e v i l O s, e r c a s s a M Bloody

a k k u n a H f o y r o t s i H The fzal By, Yasir A


anukkah is an eight-day Jewish celebration that begins on the 25th of Kislev on the Hebrew Calendar. It falls between November and December, meaning it typically overlaps with the traditional American holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas. In America, Hanukkah is seen as Christmas’ little sibling due to how close both holidays are celebrated. Since the dates change every year, many Jewish people resort to googling its start date! There are roughly seven million Jewish people in the United States and over 15 million Jewish people around the globe. Hanukkah is a beautiful celebration of culture, religion and tradition.

DID YOU KNOW: The foundation of Hanukkah is associated with the miracle that took place during the rebellion.

of Lights.

The new king, Antiochus IV Epiphanes, outlawed the Jewish religion and forced Jews to worship Greek gods. He ordered his soldiers to enter Jerusalem, massacre thousands of Jewish people and desecrate the city’s holy Second Temple by sacrificing pigs and erecting an altar to Zeus within its walls. It was clear that the king was trying to religiously cleanse the Jewish people and force them to assimilate. The Jewish rebellion was led by a Jewish priest named Mattathias and his five sons. When Mattathias died during the revolt, his son, Judah Maccabee (aka – “the Hammer”), took over the rebellion and, within two years, successfully drove the Syrians out of Jerusalem.


DID YOU KNOW: The menorah in the Second Temple was a gold

DID YOU KNOW: Hanukkah is considered the Jewish Festival

In 200 B.C., the Seleucid king of Syria, Antiochus III, took over the Land of Israel (Judea). Hanukkah honors the period of time in Jewish history where Jewish rebels, called Maccabees, rose in a revolt against their Syrian oppressors. This was a time where religion was synonymous with power and control. Kings throughout Asia and Europe understood this very well. The Syrian king was somewhat merciful compared to others and let the Jewish people continue to practice their religion. This all changed when his son came to power. 34 34 || UNITE UNITEVirginia Virginia ||

candelabrum that has seven branches representing knowledge and creation. When Judah and the other rebels regained control of the city, they began rebuilding the alter inside the Second Temple and lighting its menorah. The candles on the menorah were meant to burn all night; however, they only had enough olive oil to keep the candles burning for one day. Miraculously, the candles stayed lit for eight days, which gave Judah and his follower time to find a fresh supply of oil for the candles. This pivotal event led to the celebration of Hanukkah as we know it today.

ah What Hanukkah Traditions Are Observed? Like all religious holidays, there are many traditions associated with Hanukkah. The Menorah

During each night of Hanukkah, a candle is added to the ninebranched menorah, also called a hanukkiyah, after sundown. There are many different variations of the menorah, but the traditional one has nine branches. Each candle branch signifies a night that Judah and his fellow rebels spent in the Second Temple. Each set has an additional ninth candle called the shamash or “helper,” which is used to light the other candles. A family elder usually recites a blessing during the lighting ritual. To properly celebrate Hanukkah, a family needs 44 candles because tradition calls for letting each candle burn all the way through. Acknowledging this tradition, many stores sell boxes of 44 candles to ensure families can appropriately celebrate the holiday. Menorahs are typically displayed in windows as a reminder to others of the miracle that inspired Hanukkah, much like the Christmas tradition of putting candles on windowsills.

DID YOU KNOW: Traditional Hanukkah foods are fried in oil, which is an allusion to the miraculous lamp oil that lasted eight days in the Second Temple.

Presents, Food & Toys

Much like Christians during Christmas, Jews exchange gifts with family and friends during the Festival of Lights. When it comes to food, latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiyots (jam-filled donuts) are favorites in Jewish households. Elders often give children chocolate coins, called gelts. Children play with four-sided spinning tops called dreidels. There is a Hebrew letter embossed or printed on each of the dreidel’s four sides. These four letters form the acronym of the phrase: “Nes gadol hayah sham,” which means, “A great miracle happened there”—a reference to the miracle of Hanukkah.

DID YOU KNOW: When under Syrian control, children were forced

to learn the Torah in caves (studying the Torah was punishable by death). When soldiers patrolled the caves, Jewish children would pull out their dreidels and pretend to be playing a game until the coast was clear. Then they’d go back to studying the Torah. Thanks, in large part, to its proximity to Christmas, Hanukkah has become a major commercial holiday in the United States. Its prevalence affords non-Jewish people the opportunity to learn about this beautiful holiday. Learning about other cultures’ traditions is a wonderful way for us to grow as a community and society. No matter what you celebrate this time of year, I hope that your holiday season is filled with light. UNITE UNITE Virginia Virginia || || 35 35


g n i v i g s k n Tha It’s Not Just About Turkey Anymore! By, Charlie Williamson

I don’t know about you, but Thanksgiving for me is usually a marathon and a sprint.

Between my different groups of friends, family and friends’ families, I usually spend the last few days of November debating calling up everyone’s favorite weight loss guru, Jenny Craig, about the newly formed spare tire that’s taken up residence around my midsection. In a recent Nielsen survey of 2,000 adults, the average 18 to 34-year-old claims to eat more than four Thanksgiving meals a year! That’s a lot of turkey and mashed potatoes! Things like distance, divorce, work dinners, school events and “Friendsgiving” dinners are becoming more prominent and changing the face of the holiday. More and more people are now finding creative new ways to celebrate the season. Friendsgiving, for example, is a relatively new trend. Though mentioned as far back as 2009, it wasn’t until the last three years that the new tradition became a cultural phenomenon, dominating social media and inspiring countless articles detailing how to plan the perfect Friendsgiving dinner. Largely driven by millennials, this Thanksgiving revolution perfectly captures the growing change in our views of classic traditions. 36 | UNITE Virginia |

The classic Thanksgiving meals are also taking a hit. People are quickly turning away from the traditional turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes and moving towards more unorthodox meal options. Many are starting to experiment with dishes inspired by other cultures. Martha Stewart’s holiday tips for this year feature some creative side dishes like a brussel sprout kimchi dish, a thanksgiving themed banh mi sandwich or, the most outlandish of them all, a savory Thanksgiving ramen! Thanksgiving brunches are also gaining in popularity. I mean, who doesn’t love a good brunch? Cranberry pancakes, bacon wrapped stuffing and a mimosa? Umm… yes please! According to a recent article in The Wall Street Journal, supermarkets and grocers are taking notice. Online grocery retailer, FreshDirect, is jumping on the multiple meal bandwagon. Last year, after noticing a hike in smaller bird and side dish sales in the weeks leading up to the big day, the company decided to join in on the fun. On November 17, they are asking customers to join a social media movement and post real time Friendsgiving themed dishes to Instagram. Specialty food retailer, Dean & Deluca, is offering several turkey alternatives in their holiday season catalog. If you forego the turkey this year, you could try 24 oysters, a semi boneless quail or even a rack of venison. Let’s remember that Thanksgiving isn’t really about the food (though, lesbi-honest, the food is pretty darn important). Rather, Thanksgiving is about being together with those you love. So, go ahead and make that savory turkey ramen or cranberry quinoa salad you’ve been dying to try! Just be sure to do so with those you love and to be thankful for all of your blessings.

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Does Alcohol Actually Keep You Warm? By, Justin Ayars, JD


aby, it’s cold outside. But then you step into a bar or house party and proceed to get drunk like it’s your job. Why? Because it’s the holiday season, of course! When it’s time to go home, you might be too wasted to retrieve your coat. As you step into the cold, you still feel a soothing sense of warmth flowing throughout your body… even without your jacket. You think to yourself, “I don’t need my coat. I’ve got my ‘beer jacket’ on. I’ll be fine!” But does alcohol actually keep you warm when you’re drunk (meaning, you’ve had 3-5 drinks and your blood alcohol content is 0.08 or higher)? Let’s find out. Dr. David Raslau, an internist at the Mayo Clinic, says that alcohol does actually make you feel warm because it dilates the blood vessels under your skin. Kenneth Warren, PhD, advisor to the director at the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), agrees noting, “Alcohol is a vasodilator, which means it widens the tiny blood vessels called capillaries right under skin, so they quickly fill with warm blood.” This makes you feel warm or flushed, usually starting in your face and then spreading throughout your body. Raslau cautions that this feeling of warmth is deceptive because although your whole body feels hot, only your skin is actually warm.


In fact, you’re really losing heat from the surface of your skin, which causes your core temperature to drop. That’s right. Although you feel warm all over, Raslau says, your body temperature is actually dropping. Even more alarming is that alcohol will keep telling your body to release heat from your skin, even after the party’s over and you’re out in the cold. Caroline Kee, a BuzzFeed News reporter, notes, “Alcohol impairs your body’s ability to realize it needs to stop dilating your capillaries and sending blood to the skin in order to prevent your internal temperature from getting too low.” Raslau adds, “It’s as if your body is in permanent ‘on mode’ for releasing heat from the skin’s surface.” No bueno. Worse still, Kee reports, “Alcohol also messes with the part of our brain (the brainstem) that controls thermoregulation, so your body has trouble warming back up.” Warren explains, “Your brainstem uses thermoregulation to adjust the body to hot or cold environments, so you can maintain a steady core temperature (about 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit).” In short, we need thermoregulation to survive and protect our vital organs because extremely low or high body temperatures can lead to brain damage, cardiac arrest and even death. According to Raslau, when it’s cold your brainstem “should be constricting blood vessels in the skin and extremities to pull blood back to the internal organs — which is why your hands

and feet get cold first or turn blueish — pushing blood to the heart, and forcing your body to shiver because the quick movements generate heat.” However, alcohol impairs the brainstem, so these mechanisms don’t always happen. “Drunk people think they aren’t shivering because they aren’t cold, but in reality, they aren’t shivering because the alcohol is preventing thermoregulation,” Raslau explains. When this happens, you become like a cold-blooded reptile and your body temperature drops with the cold air outside instead of adjusting to stay warm. Yikes! Ok, so you’re now a drunk reptile out in the cold. But the funny thing is, you don’t know any of this is happening to you. Warren notes that when you go outside in the cold after you lose thermoregulation, your body temperature will fall significantly, BUT you won’t know you’re freezing because booze dulls the brain’s ability to sense that you’re cold. Raslau clarifies, “Alcohol works like an anesthetic in the body because once it enters the bloodstream and hits the brain, it turns down our nerve response to stimuli like the cold so you aren’t as aware of it.” So, this holiday season, as you make the yuletide gay, be sure to: 1) know the facts about alcohol, 2) drink responsibly and 3) bundle up. Oh, and be sure to leave your mythical “beer jacket” at home with the rainbow unicorn in your closet. But seriously, if you have a rainbow unicorn in your closet, call me.

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My Top 10 “Just-the-Tips” for Holiday Decorating By, Jesse LaVancher

It’s time to deck the halls with boughs of holly!

Fa la la la la, and all that jazz. Are you worried that your decorating skills may make the yuletide fizzle? Or do you subscribe to the Liberace method of decorating: “Too much of a good thing is . . . fabulous!”? There are so many decorating “dos and don’ts” lists out there, I decided to give you the ONLY one you’ll need this season. Follow my Top 10 “Just-the-Tips” and you’ll be sure to drink the spirit—I mean, get in the holiday spirit with style and grace! Now, where did I put my eggnog?

1. Advent calendars are just for kids anymore!

Yeah, chocolates are great. But embrace new ways to count down the days ‘til St. Nick arrives. Scented candles and airplane size bottles of booze are my faves. Don’t judge.

2. Don’t overdo the front door decor.

Do you put so many decorations on your door that it looks more like a portal to Lady Gaga’s closet rather than a door to your humble abode? Shame! . . . Shame!! However, you can’t neglect your front door, either. Why not make it easy on yourself and go with something that won’t die? Shoo those school kids selling fresh greens away, take yourself to the store and buy something fake!

3. Not all trees are tall and green.

Do you live in an apartment, condo, dorm room or in a broom closet? You, too, can decorate for the season! BUT, if you go for a color—like winter white—then stick with that single color for your ornaments as well. Otherwise, it’ll look like a color-blind unicorn waltzed into your small space and vomited everywhere. Not pretty.

4. Mix and match on the mantel.

Diversity is a beautiful thing—not just in the world, but in your living room! Let different items sit together. Bring on the candlesticks, vases and ornaments. The trick is to pick one color and vary the shades. Think about how well light blue, navy and cobalt look when they stick together. Blue is always a great color for the winter!

5. Use oversized bulbs.

Who ever said size doesn’t matter was lying! Lighten up and start thinking outside the (small) traditional box. Go big, bold and bright on the tree or hang those colorful strings along your mantel, window frames or stairway banister (the latter is especially important if you do, in fact, live in broom closet). Yes, friends—bigger IS better.

6. Embrace vintage finds.

Break out the hand-stitched stockings, ornaments and decor. Don’t have those old knick-knacks from your great aunt Bertha? No problem! Just go out and buy them from your local craft store! Remember, there’s nothing wrong with being crafty!

7. Don’t forget the glitter.

I love Liberace as much as the next person, but even I don’t want TOO much glitz and glam. Too many shiny objects in one place have been known to cause seizures. I read that on the internet, so it must be true. When going for something glitzy, choose one metallic object and let it “steel” the show!

8. Don’t forget seasonal elements.

As you get festive this year, I want you to try a more rustic approach. Use bark mirrors, lanterns and pinecones. Hell, go out in the yard or a park and bring home some real nature! Just watch out for bears . . . unless that’s your thing. Rawr!

9. Personalize your stockings.

I don’t mean with names or initials. That’s SO 20th century. Instead, stitch your stockings with your favorite hobbies, interests, vacation spots and memories! Make your stockings say something about you. After all, you’re fabulous!

10. Don’t shy away from the classics.

I love traditional decorations! Go on and hang a homemade cranberry garland! Also, red and green look pretty darn chic in felt . . . and so do I!

11. BONUS TIP: Always decorate with music playing in the background!

Friends don’t let friends decorate without music. Cue up Beyoncé, Brittany, Cher, Madonna, Whitney and anyone else who can get your body moving! Shake your booty while hanging balls on your tree and give your nosy neighbor, Gladys Kravitz, a reason to reach for her medicine bottle and scream, “Abner!!”

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Deliver Icy Justice to your Arctic Adversaries with the Perfect Snowball


By, Charlie Williamson As children, we all enjoyed a good snowball fight. It’s impossible to forget the old days when you looked out the window and saw a blanket of thick, powdery heaven covering the neighborhood; that excitement you felt as the news announced school was canceled freeing you up to go play with Johnny, Sue and Ellie down the street; and, the nagging warnings of your mother saying, “you’ll catch your death of cold” or, “if you get too messy don’t bother coming home.” We all share memories of racing down the street to meet our friends, all red faced and shivering, and joyfully frolicking in the snow. Inevitably, a snowball fight would begin to ensue. Your once gleeful friends quickly morphed into mortal enemies on the frozen field of battle. At some point, Attila the Hun (who strangely resembled your friend Johnny) emerged from behind a tree, outflanked you, pelted you with snowballs and, within minutes, you emerged from the battlefield wet, cold and defeated. Ah, the joys of childhood! While the settings and cast of characters of these memories are different for everyone, we all seem to recall that at least one kid on the block somehow knew how to magically make the perfect arsenal of snowballs—or, rather, orbs of death that brought down empires of imagination. And if that kid was you was you, well, congrats. I’ll send you my therapy bill (Johnny, I hope you’re reading this). So many of us are clueless when it comes to the art of crafting snowballs. After a devastating defeat at my friend’s annual snowball bar-crawl last year, I scoured the internet attempting to learn how to make the perfect snowball. My quest started as a way for me to learn from my embarrassing defeats in the great childhood Snow Wars. However, my inquiry quickly evolved into a mission to save future generations of children (and adults) from the embarrassment of subpar snowballs, tears and shame this holiday season. From countless hours and sleepless nights, here are the three most important tips for transforming a blanket of heavenly, white snow into a frozen arsenal of gravity-defying orbs that deliver icy justice to your arctic adversaries. 1. You need to pick the right snow. Good snow can make or break a snowball. For the best snowballs, find snow that’s not too wet or too dry. If the snow is too wet, you’ll just end up making slush balls. While light, powdery snow makes great snow for skiing, it’s not good for snowball making. Colder temperatures create this powdery snow. Because of its low moisture content, powdery snow won’t pack. However, if you’re feeling super competitive, using your bare hands can melt the snow just enough to pack it in. 2. Gloves, not mittens. When packing snowballs, you’ll need all the finger dexterity you can get. Mittens may keep your hands nice and warm, but it’s hard to pack a snowball with a pair of fins attached to your arms. It’s not impossible; it just takes more time and care. That time though could be the difference between a face full of snow or sweet victory. Go for the gloves… and the glory! 3. Now the most important part… packing you snowball. You’ve found the perfect snow. You have gloves on. Now it’s time to start making your munitions. When selecting snow for your ammo, go with the snow a few inches below the surface. The top layer has already packed the snow for you, making your job a little bit easier. Fill both your cupped hands with snow and rotate them to pack the snow. Apply more pressure with each rotation. Don’t start with too much pressure, though, or the snowball will just fall apart. When you start feeling some resistance from the snow as you pack, the snowball is ready. Stop pressing and start smoothing the ball out so it forms a crystal ball shape. Congratulations! You’ve got yourself a perfect snow bomb capable of taking down Attila the Hun. Look out, Johnny… I’m coming for you!

UNITE Virginia | | 39

12 Gay Movies for the Ah, the holidays. Family, friends, eggnog and… gay-themed movies! Find a snuggle bunny or have some friends over and check out my top 12 LGBTQ-themed holiday movies. By, Meredith Jenkins


Scrooge & Marley

With this adaptation of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, directors Richard Knight, Jr. and Peter Neville attempt to modernize the classic tale by putting a gay spin on it. What exactly does this mean? Why, lots of heart, fun and music, of course!

5. 1. Red Lodge

Miss Richfield 1981: Fall on Your Knees Christmas Extravaganza

In the days leading up to Christmas, a man proposes to his boyfriend and the offer of marriage is accepted. How romantic! But then, (dun dun dun!) the offer is quickly rejected! Will these star-crossed lovers reunite or will Jack Frost chill any chance of them reuniting?

How can you turn down a holiday comedy show from Minnesota’s Mistress of Mayhem! This camp production showcases a spectacle of variety, live on stage from her sold out show, and comes with lots of fun music. The film also includes Miss Richfield 1981’s candid interactions with audience members at a pre-show celebration. What fun!

A family gathers for their annual holiday celebration at the home of their liberal, New England parents. One of the guests is Meredith who is played by Sarah Jessica Parker, which is almost gay enough! But those looking for an extra dose of gay will enjoy the side story about the gay son, a deaf artist, and his partner who announce to the family that they’re ready to adopt! Warning: keep a tissue box nearby for this comedy/tearjerker.

This film carries heavier content than most holiday flicks, but it reminds us of what is important during the holiday season. Ving Rhames gives a powerful performance as Holiday, a Christian drag queen who stumbles upon a troubled family and seeks to help them while also dealing with a heartache of his own. If you’re looking for a holiday movie that will tug on your heart strings, look no further. This movie packs a little diva, too!

2. The Family Stone


Holiday Heart

3. Freeheld



The true story of Laurel Hester, a New Jersey police detective diagnosed with cancer who wants to leave her pension to her lover, Stacie. The case became a lynchpin for the gay marriage movement in New Jersey. With national marriage equality just over a year old, this moving film is a must-watch.

40 | UNITE Virginia |

This is the big-screen adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s lesbian novel, The Price of Salt. Socialite Carol falls for a younger shop girl in the toy section of a New York department store around Christmas of 1952. The movie follows their budding relationship during a time when the subject of two women together was the ultimate taboo. This stunning film, which stars the incomparable Cate Blanchette, is a cinematic masterpiece that captures the essence of New York in the 1950s down to the tiniest detail!

12 Gays of Christmas

11. A Tuna Christmas 8. Make the Yuletide Gay

Gunn is totally at ease with his sexuality when it comes to everyday life. But going home to spend the holidays with his well-meaning Midwestern parents—who have no idea that he’s gay—is a little different. Of course, his closeted charade seems to be working fine until his mom and dad try to set him up with an old female flame and his current boyfriend shows up unannounced!


Home for the Holidays

Every year, Claudia dreads her trip home for Thanksgiving. Between her parents, her sardonic gay brother (a hot, young Robert Downey, Jr.) and her overdramatic sister, things are bad enough. But this year, Claudia has more angst than usual. She lost her job and is dealing with her daughter’s revelation about her sexual activities. Jodie Foster directs this fabulous ode to dysfunction!

This is the second in a series of comedic plays set in the fictional town of Tuna, Texas—the “third-smallest” town in the state. This Christmas-themed play is both a withering satire and an affectionate commentary on small-town, southern life. Remarkably, two men play the entire cast of over 20 eccentric characters of both genders and various ages! This one is not to be missed!

12. Diva’s Christmas Carol

A re-make of the Charles Dickens’ classic, A Christmas Carol, this holiday movie follows cold-hearted superstar Ebony Scrooge (played by real-life diva Vanessa Williams) who gets a reality check from three Christmas spirits. Bring out your inner diva with this one!

10. The Danish Girl

Set in mid-1920s Copenhagen, portrait artist Gerda Wegener asks her husband, popular landscape artist Einar Wegener, to stand in for a female model who is late to come to their flat to pose for a painting she’s working on. The act of posing as a female unmasks Einar’s lifelong identification as a woman, whom she has named Lili Elbe. This sets off a progression, first tentative and then irreversible, of leaving behind her identity as Einar, which she has struggled to maintain all her life. This emotional film follows the life of Lili as she becomes one of the first people to undergo a male-to-female sex reassignment surgery.

UNITE Virginia | | 41

42 | UNITE Virginia |


Charles City



A Holiday Tour Across Virginia By, Jesse LaVancher


The holiday season offers Virginians and tourists wonderful ways to celebrate the season! No matter where you live in the Commonwealth, or where you plan to visit, there is sure to be something that catches your interest. We’ve put together a list of 12 wonderful holiday events going on across Virginia. For more information about holiday happenings in your neck-of the woods, visit www.virginia. org. Without further ado, here are some of the highlights that Virginia has to offer during this festive holiday season! 1. STAUNTON CHRISTMAS PARADE 110 West Johnson St., Staunton, VA Dates: 11/28/2016

7. ANNUAL LIGHTED BOAT PARADE 756 Settlers Landing Rd., Hampton, VA Dates: 12/09/2016

2.DOWNTOWN BRISTOL CHRISTMAS PARADE State Street, Bristol, VA Dates: 12/01/2016

8. WYTHE ARTS COUNCIL FESTIVAL OF TREES 240 S. 4th St., Wytheville, VA Dates: 12/10/2016 & 12/11/2016

3. WINTER LIGHTS FESTIVAL & TUBACHRISTMAS College Avenue, Blacksburg, VA Dates: 12/02/2016

9. HOT SPRINGS CHRISTMAS PARADE Downtown, Hot Springs, VA Dates: 12/17/2016

4. OLD-FASHIONED CHRISTMAS PARADE IN CHINCOTEAGUE Main Street, Chincoteague Island, VA Dates: 12/03/2016 5. ANNUAL CAMPAGNA CENTER SCOTTISH CHRISTMAS WALK WEEKEND AND PARADE Alexandria, VA 22314 Dates: 12/02/2016 & 12/03/2016 6. CHRISTMAS IN MIDDLEBURG Washington St., Middleburg, VA 20117 Dates: 12/02/2016 - 12/04/2016 Wytheville



10. MAYMONT HOLIDAY MANSION TOURS 1700 Hampton St., Richmond, VA Dates: 11/18/2016 – 12/31/2016 11. BERKELEY’S COLONIAL CHRISTMAS 12602 Harrison Landing Rd. Charles City, VA Dates: 12/03/2016 - 01/01/2017 12. BUSCH GARDENS CHRISTMAS TOWN One Busch Gardens Blvd., Williamsburg, VA 23185 Dates: 11/25/2016 - 01/02/2017


Chincoteague Island

Old Town Alexandria

UNITE Virginia | | 43




What is your favorite thing about the holiday season?

By, Unite Virginia Staff

Arielle Branson | My favorite thing

about the holiday season is having a break from classes and a chance to relax. With my busy college schedule, it is a rarity to get time to myself, so time off around the holidays is a blessing. It is also wonderful to be able to spend time with my friends and family while enjoying good food. I love to cook, so the holidays also give me the time to pursue that passion.

Yasir Afzal | The holidays are the one

time of the year where people from all different backgrounds come together and share experiences. Whether you hate the holiday season or look forward to it all year, the time from October to New Year’s Day is filled with so much magic. This is the season where old traditions can be honored and new ones created as you solidify your bonds with friends, family and loved ones.

Christian Meade | My favorite things about the holiday season is having my family come together. I don’t get to see everyone much during the year, so I really enjoy the time that I get to spend with them during the holidays. And, of course, I love all of the delicious food that the season brings!

Maxwell Manchester | I simply love the holiday season! I enjoy seeing beautiful lights and decorations, hearing my favorite holiday tunes and seeing family members I love like crazy. I also have a sweet tooth for a whole bunch of holiday treats, especially the ginger snap and oatmeal butterscotch cookies my mom makes every year. I also have a weak spot for pumpkin pie—so whether it’s dinner at Thanksgiving or Christmas, I make sure I eat all the pie I can!

Charlie Williamson | My favorite

thing about the holiday season is probably getting to spend time with my family. We are all so busy and live so far apart that we only get to see each other once or twice a year, so we make it a point to all be together for Christmas. My family has a bunch of strange holiday traditions. Although I think they’re super corny, for some reason I always find myself looking forward to them every year. 44 | UNITE Virginia |

Kevin Costanzo | My favorite thing

about the holiday season is good beer. It’s not just the beer though—it’s realizing that with my first sip, I know that for at least the next 24 hours I’ll be surrounded by friends and family. It doesn’t necessarily matter what type of beer it is, though I would prefer it be of the craft variety. Regardless, sipping beer during the holiday season signals that I can take a break from everything else going on in my life and spend time with friends and family. Cheers!



The Essential RuPaul: Herstory, Philosophy & Her Fiercest Queens


By, Terri Schlichenmeyer

he Queen has spoken.

Everyone listens because, well, how can they not? Her bearing, her stature, her very demeanor demands attention from all her subjects. In the new book The Essential RuPaul by John Davis, illustrations by Libby Vanderploeg, these queens have a lot to say. When RuPaul Andre Charles was a little boy, his mother told him that he would be a star someday, and she’d given him an unusual name just so he’d stand out. That’s what he did, starting in his teens when he dropped out of the North Atlanta School of Performing Arts and began to “find his calling.” On his way, he was a member of a punk rock band, he performed as a go-go dancer, hosted a talk-show, and “hosted numerous local events” in Atlanta. Later, he moved to New York and acted in films. By 1989, after a few pauses in his fabulosity, he became “RuPaul the glamazon” and went on to even bigger fame in fashion, modeling, music, TV, and cosmetics. Following the 9/11 attacks, RuPaul briefly and “quietly” stepped back from show biz to “take a break,” but he couldn’t stay away long: in 2009, he launched RuPaul’s Drag Race, a television show that featured snarky judges and competitors in performance, sewing, comedy, and (of course) drag. In this book, we meet some of them… There’s Santino Rice, a Drag Race judge whose comments cut like a razor blade. Adore Delano, whose last-minute debut came on YouTube after her creator, Danny Noriega, appeared on American Idol. Alaska, a “Tacky Blonde Bombshell” who hailed from the state she was named after. There’s Cameroon

native BeBe Zahara Benet, who arrived following a modeling gig from “an unexpected no-show of a female model.” Drag housewife BedDeLaCreme has created her own cosmetics line, featuring cruelty-free products. Following her taping of Drag Race in 2010, Carmen Carrera is now a trans TV star. Cher impersonator, Chad Michaels, has been fortunate enough to perform with Cher herself. Manila Luzon’s first appearance was as Cruella de Vil, and performer Nina Flowers enjoys her own “day” in the Denver LGBT community. The Essential RuPaul is one really quirky book. Despite that its subtitle promises “Herstory” and more, there’s really very little here about RuPaul—four pages, to be exact, and one of those is almost totally just an illustration by artist Libby Vanderploeg. The rest of this book, alas, only has tentative relevance to RuPaul through the drag queens that appeared on her show. And that’s fine – if that narrow subject is what you want. Author John Davis does a good job in bringing together a bedazzle of performers in this book. But the list is frustrating in its incompleteness. The mini-chapters with mini-biographies are woefully short and quite repetitious. That, plus the misleading title may frustrate some readers. However, fans of RuPaul’s Drag Race probably won’t care—especially, after RuPaul won an Emmy for Best Reality Host this fall! You go, girl! If you’ve been a good little queen this year, then you may be lucky enough to find The Essential RuPaul under your Christmas tree. Long live the queens!

UNITE Virginia | | 45


rockin’ nye

1. Host the Party at Home

Don’t rent out some expensive place for your party; rather, have it at your house or apartment! This isn’t just cheaper, but it’s more comfortable for you and your guests.

2. Keep the Guest List Small

Not only will you spend less money on a smaller party, but the intimacy of the celebration gives everyone the chance to connect with each other.

3. Accept Guests’ Offers to Help

By, Jesse LaVancher

You don’t have to plan your party alone! Some of your guests will undoubtedly offer to help. Take them up on their offer and have them get party supplies like streamers, napkins and noisemakers. Also, ask them what they might be able to bring food-wise. Some might have an easy dish they can whip-up in no time and bring to the party.

4. Disposable Plates/Cups vs. What You Have on Hand

Disposable plates and cups make cleanup a snap, but they cost more than using what you have in your cupboard. I suggest you mix-and-match plates, bowls and glasses that you have at home to create a festive and trendy vibe. How frugal chic!

5. The Dollar Store is Your Best Friend

Learn this lesson well: the dollar store is your best friend. From napkins to decorations, you simply can’t go wrong. Period.

6. Don’t Take Down your Holiday Decorations before NYE

Your December holiday décor is the perfect festive backdrop for your NYE party. That way you can spend next to nothing on additional NYE decorations (which you will get at the dollar store, of course).

7. Make a homemade photo booth

Everyone loves photo booths. However, renting one is expensive. Instead, make your own by hanging a sheet for a backdrop and putting out a bin of props (see Tip #5). Apps such as Pocketbooth will let your guests print and mail pics. Say cheese!

8. Don’t Make a Big Meal

NYE parties tend to start later, so there’s no need to make a big meal for everyone. Instead, make some easy appetizers, like meatballs in the slow cooker, and a few simple desserts. A cheese and cracker tray is a great, inexpensive way to feed your guests if you buy chunk cheese and slice it yourself.

9. Ask everyone to bring their favorite drink

Are you throwing a NYE party but don’t have a lot of cash? With a little planning and creativity, you can throw an awesome, yet inexpensive, bash to ring in the New Year! Follow these 10 frugal tips and start counting down to 2017! 46 | UNITE Virginia |

Alcohol is expensive. Especially the good stuff. Instead of shelling out hundreds of bucks on booze, ask your guests to bring their favorite bottle and mixers to share. This gives everyone the chance to try new cocktails and provides guests with a sense of ownership of the party, too. “Why, yes, Jeannie. I did bring that bottle of Blanton’s. Doesn’t the flavor dance on your tongue like a ballerina in The Nutcracker?” Oh, and if there is Blanton’s at your party, be sure to invite me. K, thanks! Also, be sure you how everyone plans on getting home safely. Is anyone a designated driver? Are people calling an Uber? Are people staying at your place (which, is great because they can help with clean-up the next day)? Don’t wait till the wee hours of the morning and try to talk a drunk person out of driving home. That never ends well.

10. Have a Plan for when the Clock Strikes Midnight

The highlight of the evening is obviously ringing in the New Year. Plan in advance how you want to mark the moment. Will you turn on the TV and watch the ball drop? Will you do your own countdown? Make sure you have the traditional song “Auld Lang Syne” ready to play as you ring in the new year and, if your budget allows, plenty of champagne to pass around. Also, be sure to have someone to kiss at the magic moment. That won’t cost you anything, except maybe your dignity. Happy New Year!!!

Unite Virginia | Holiday 2016  
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